One of my favorite things to do at swim practice is play around with the various kinds of swim gear that is available to us.

Fortunately, for the aspiring swimmer there is no shortage of stuff to play with, from swim fins, resistance tubing, kickboards, pull buoys and all the rest. But among my favorite pieces of swim equipment is your swimming paddles.

Yup, just a rounded piece of plastic that you attach to your hands.

Why are swim paddles so awesome to use?

Well, let me tell ya.

1. You will go inordinately faster. Swimmers want one thing above else—the ability to go faster. A pair of hand paddles let’s you to just this. The added surface area of the paddle means that you can pull more water, giving you more power, and ultimately, more velocity through the water. Level up the added speed you get from paddles by adding a pair of swim fins. It is in those moments you get a glimpse of what it is like to swim like the fastest swimmers on the planet.

2. You will get stronger. Although swimming is a wildly technical endeavor, conditioning and strength are just as important. (Especially for you fast twitch monsters in the pool!) Wearing a set of paddles is akin to strength training for your shoulders, chest and back. The difference between hitting the weights and wearing paddles is that the latter is as sport-specific as it gets. Big muscles are nice, but big swimming muscles are even nicer.

3. Your technique will improve. One of the underrated aspects of training with paddles is that you will be forced to improve your technique. How do I know this? Because paddles magnify the stroke inefficiencies in your technique. Their use accentuates the early vertical forearm, a proper hand entry, and recovering properly. In the case of the hand entry in particular, if you take the wrist strap off of your paddles, and perform a bad hand entry, the paddle will twist off your hand. In terms of instant feedback on whether or not you are doing something right this is as good as it gets.

Now that we have waxed on the awesomeness of your swim paddles, there are some notes of caution that I feel obliged to mention.

1. Don’t use them as a crutch. Often swimmers will use hand paddles to help them make an interval, or because their regular pulling motion isn’t that great. Don’t use paddles as an excuse for when you are struggling with a set—use them with purpose and not because you want to avoid doing something else.

2. Use in moderation. Like any kind of resistance training you want to employ its use in moderation. Even though you might have big boulders for shoulders, the ligaments and tendons in your arm and shoulders are put under stress with paddle use.

 

3. If you have a shoulder injury, avoid their use. This seems like an obvious one, but it is worth mentioning anyways. After all, swimmer’s shoulder is so darn common, with more than half of USA Swimming age group swimmers having experienced some type of shoulder pain in the past year. Paddle use should be discontinued in the case of shoulder injury, as you are simply opening yourself to the risk of further injury.